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Monday, August 23, 2004

Another Potential Minor-Party Spoiler? 

An Alaska Superior Court judge has ruled that the "Republican Moderate Party" deserves a ballot line in November's elections, thereby ensuring that Alaska voters will have a chance to support former state legislator Ray Metcalfe in the US Senate race. He'll be joining Libertarian candidate Scott Kohlhaas and Green candidate Jim Sykes, as well as the winner of the contested Alaskan Independence Party primary.

Big deal, right? Alaska has been a solidly Republican state since the 1970s, after all. All major statewide offices are held by Republicans, and the presumed Republican Senatorial nominee, as the daughter of Governor Frank Murkowski, has enormous name recognition. Plus, since her father appointed her to the seat when he vacated it to become Governor, she's the incumbent.

As a matter of fact, though, a contested Republican primary (voting is tomorrow) and a surprisingly strong Democratic candidate (former governor Tony Knowles) have led election observers like the formidable Charles Cook to rate this seat a "toss-up." The most recent polls show a tiny margin between the Democrat and the Republican incumbent.

Here's where Metcalfe and Sykes come in. Each is polling in the 1-2% range. But Metcalfe has shown some strength in the past, pulling in over 6% of the vote in the 1998 Gubernatorial race. It's not clear to me whether Metcalfe has any chance of pulling this sort of showing again (particularly as I'm in New York City and have never been to Alaska), but minor parties are clearly a factor in this close race. Furthermore, unlike most such races this year, one of the minor parties is attempting to stake out a position between the two parties, rather than on their right or left flank.

Could be interesting...

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